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Dealer goes all in pre flop, a 2nd and a 3rd person then went all in.

Dealer accidentally muckes her cards when cleaning up everyone else’s after going all in but before the flop.

Dealer whose cards were mucked told TD exact number and suit. TD made the executive decision as dealer was already all in, that they would find the cards that were clearly identified and she could play.

Is this fair? Right?

2 Answers 2

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Ok so there is no 100% uniformed rule, and this is why we have floor staff, as they have the discretion to make a ruling for the integrity of the game and the players. Given you haven't mentioned this is a tournament or cash game I'll explain both.

Firstly I don't like the floors ruling, but you're lacking some details to say for sure, once cards are in the muck and no longer easily identifiable or retrievable they are dead. That is pretty consistent across the board for tournament and most cash tables out there. You didn't mention specifically how they entered the muck though so I'll explain what I mean. By easily identifiable and retrievable what this typically means the dealer has taken the players cards, touched the muck(so technically dead), quickly realised this and didn't fully muck the cards, i.e. was able to stop them going fully in the muck. Another example of this is the dealer placed them on top of the muck and can confirm that to the floor.

Now it's tricky as the player is all-in. Typically in a tournament an all-in player's hand cannot be declared dead. If you check as an example the WSOP rules, rule 70 you'll see it has a line "...the Tournament Staff reserves the right to retrieve the folded/mucked cards if the cards are clearly identifiable". This doesn't mean they will be able to retrieve the cards 100% of the time, but they can do something about it, hence the reserves the right. You will get floors that will call the hand dead and won't entertain retrieving the cards, you will get floors who will straight up ask for the cards, communicate with the dealer and attempt to reasonable get the cards. Whatever they decide someone is likely going to be unhappy about what has happened. Ultimately it is up to a player to table and protect their hands, and this is even more so in an all-in situation. I say table their hand as no matter what an exposed, tabled all-in hand is always retrievable and identifiable (well duh) and hence cannot be killed until a better hand is tabled.

Cash game situation is different, and if it's a larger stake the floor may straight up ask the players in the situation what they want to happen. Sometimes you'll get players who will agree to let the all-in player take something back and just end the hand. It's a lot more flexible in a cash game situation and even more so in the higher stakes cash games. This massively depends on who is playing of course as well.

If ever in doubt of a place's rules on this situation, simply ask a floor staff what ruleset they're using or what the ruling in the casino, cardroom, or club would be. Different places will have slightly different processes.

Finally as I so often say, if this is for a homegame situation, remember you are playing with people who are likely your friends. Be reasonable, discuss as a group and come to a group decision how your homegame wants to handle this going forward. While being strict might be best for the integrity of a game, but being too strict will see homegame players not want to play in the future. Homegames are even more of a different situation as the players can decide what's the solution. If you do reach a decision, write it down, record it so it's consistent from that point in the homegame.

TL;DR if the hand is easily recovered a floor will recover it, if it's not it is dead, it's up to the player to protect their hand, and not the dealer. Tournaments are stricter to the letter, cash games and especially the higher stakes ones have a larger degree of flexibility.

Multiple WSOP rules support this: Rule 70, 71, 109, 110. Rule 108 as well mentions about protecting your hand. Together all rules give the floor discretion on their decision based on situation. TDA has similar rules in place as well, rule 65

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I believe this ruling to be wrong. If you were in a real casino where the dealer is an employee and not part of the game their hand is considered an extension of the muck. As soon as a dealler touches a player's cards and moves them towards the muck pile, the hand is considered dead and unplayable. Always place a marker on a hand you intend to play.

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    The muck is the muck, nothing else. Up until the cards are in it, the dealer can always stop to confirm the action, and absolutely should hold the cards down in place to confirm an ambiguous action before continuing.
    – Nij
    Dec 18, 2023 at 0:05
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    As @Nij said, this is not true. As someone who has been a dealer in the past for several years, casinos, cardclubs, WSOP and other events, it's always the floors decision and not the dealers or the players. The muck is not the dealer's hand, otherwise the whole deck is mucked from the moment the hand starts. Floor has massive discretion often on how to handle this.
    – Grinch91
    Dec 21, 2023 at 10:27

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